Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Anniversary?

So a bit more than a week ago now, Nate got a call to this effect, "Hey LT Miller, you're deploying. Get your shit straight and be ready to go with the main body." Okay. Well that was a bit unexpected. We have known for some time that I was getting lucky enough to be going to a wonderful mountainous region that no one wants to go to for some strange reason....oh yeah, because of the terrorists. Go figure. So the hubby and I spent the last week or so just scrambling to get our wills in order, powers of attorney completed and other arrangements made. The biggest issue of course was finding someone to watch our furry boys, Tom and Frank. Luckily thanks to Auntie Joni, they will be having an extended sleepover with their diminutive Auntie Dog (Dog is a cat). To make ready for their departure, we went to legal to have a power of attorney done up for them. Apparently it is an odd request to have one drafted for cats. Luckily the lawyer we saw was a good sport and simply took the template that one uses for children and replaced ever time it said "child" with "cat." Since their micro chips are registered to us, we thought it was best, just in case, to have Auntie named as their legal guardian while we are deployed. Okay, well that is taken care of. Now for the tough part: shipping them. Firstly, let me say, thank God for PetAir. Those people are saints, over charging saints, but saints nonetheless. More on that to follow.

With our anniversary weekend coming up, which I had booked a romantic vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland, we made sure that all was in order before we left. Nate and I had a great time in Scotland. Although Alli and I had made quite a mark on the city six or so years back (me scuzi!), Nate had never been to the land of my ancestors. Now let me preface this next bit with some explanation. The UK is very expensive. The pound is much stronger than the dollar, so as this was an impromptu holiday, I wanted to make our dollars stretch as far as they could, so I booked a hotel in a seaside town outside of the city in the Portobello district (no mushrooms, go figure). After flying from Memmingen Airport on Friday we arrived in Edinburgh in the early afternoon. We boarded the bus to get to the city center to get a connecting bus to our hotel. I must say that Edinburgh has some of the nicest, cleanest, and timeliest buses that I have ever had the privileged of using. Their public transport is not government owned or funded, so the competition between bus companies forces the system to run very smoothly.

We took the bus to our stop and stepped out into a quiet seaside area. The ocean looked very chilly, but was really beautiful. We walked down some streets with classically Victorian architecture standard to what you would see in most seaside towns that reached their height of popularity in the Victorian era. We got to our guest house with no directional issues and were ready for a change of clothes and a shower. I had warned Nate in advance that this was a small place, and that bathrooms would most likely be shared with other guests. This is common in Europe, so he was not too surprised with this. Once at the door, we rang the bell to be admitted. This is when Nate look at me and glared the, "You have got to be kidding me," glare. So it was a bit small. Okay, so I could touch all walls and every piece of furniture at the same time. And yes, the bathroom was shared. And it was owned by some Pakistani brothers whose grasp of English was minimal. It was very clean though, and although English impaired, our hosts were friendly and helpful. All in all, not too bad. We found a great pub for dinner (I had the best mussels!) and turned in for an early night while watching bad British sitcoms on the BBC.

The next day Nate and I took an early bus into the city. It was blustery and alternated between squalls of rain and bright sunshine. The weather didn't bother us, but kept many other tourists inside so we took advantage of this to see the Edinburgh castle. It was very impressive (and quite a hike up to it, I must say!). We visited the areas where they held American POWs during the revolutionary war and saw the Scottish Military History Museum. We also viewed the memorials to WWI and WWII. After that, we walked over to the National Gallery and then on to the Royal Museum of Scotland. While there we saw some amazing displays on vikings and the Picts. We also viewed a very large working steam engine as well as Dolly the sheep (taxidermied of course). We ate at another pub for dinner (passing the coffee shop where Harry Potter was written!) and took the bus back to our closet for some rest.

The next day was an early start for us. We got together our trekking gear and headed out to the Pentland Hills for some hiking. The winds were blowing steady at over 30 mph and gusting at over 60 mph. Add in some dramatic rain squalls and bright sunshine and you can picture our day. We hiked three main peaks, including the highest in the Pentland Hills. It was probably the most rewarding and beautiful hike I have ever been on. We passed pasturing sheep, miles of peat and heather bogs, and a wonderful waterfall. The weather certainly kept other hikers inside. We saw probably about 15 others hiking. Only two of which were men. I assume all the men in Scotland were drowning their sorrows from the Manchester United loss from the night prior. Enough said on the hike though, as I will let the photos speak for themselves.

My bride has decided that I may be able to tell the next part of our misadventures to the maximum amusement, so here goes. The trip back from Scotland was uneventful, and we returned to prepare the boys for their trip. Before we get into the details, allow me to advance to the scientific world Miller's Theory of Feline Selective Hearing. We all know selective hearing, it is what allows spousal units to not hear each other while in the same room, but up until recently it has not been observed in any other species. Well, Tom our fat (well, the vet did say he had a large bone structure) cat has been the proof positive that the scientific world has been awaiting all these years. Tell him to not torment his brother, nothing; tell him to leave the laundry alone, nothing; tell him that he will never catch that bird through the window, nothing; talk about preparing him for a trip to the States and he knows instantly. We tried to trick him (Frank is too stupid to require tricking) with a combination of medication and doing all preparations in the front yard out of his sight. We even got up at 0400 to ensure that he would not be on his toes. We didn't take into account that when you have 20 toes, you are seldom off them for long. With preparations complete, we decided to be all sneaky and not put him in his hated small cage for transfer to the large kennel we had purchased to bring him to Frankfurt. Dad picked him up as always, and Tom realized the time had come. To flash back to Scotland for a moment, everyone has heard of bagpipes described as a man biting the tail of a screaming cat, let me tell you the sounds are nothing similar, the bagpipe is in fact much more melodious. Long story short, with a lot of swearing and sweating he was ensconsed in the travel cage, and Frank took about the effort to mop ones' brow to place alongside his brother. If only we had known what was to follow, we would have paid the extra $500 to have him driven to Frankfurt. We listen to books on tape when we drive, and let me tell you, the DaVinci code is not meant to be listened to with a bloodcurdling yowl every 1.5 seconds. Once you get used to it, it only is slightly maddening, until you reach the half hour mark, and a mysterious scent enters the vehicle. Cow poo? Nope, slightly more, OH GOD PULL OVER! Yes, defecation incident number one occurred, precipitating a stop in a farmers field for emergency application of baby wipes and tossing of poo. By tossing of poo, I mean that the carpet piece, the poo, the newspaper and tissues that had been contaminated were tossed into the crops (note to self, don't eat the corn) and we tore off before anyone could note our license plate. Autobahn was entered with the now harmonious sounds of yowls as Frank now felt left out of the commotion and tried to impart some Simon and Garfunkel action to the proceedings. 45 minutes later, a no longer mysterious smell enters the car, windows come open at 95 miles an hour and a rest stop is found in short order for defecation incident two. This one was in the litter box, so removal was easier. Frankfurt is in sight when the most horrible smell comes perfectly timed with a complete stop in a Stau. Poo excavation mid-autobahn is considered and abandoned, and some Sour Krauts are made as we cut our way across to an exit to remove the poo. After we complete that, Jak points out that I have poo on my sleeve, and helpfully begins to dab at it with a baby wipe. I helpfully point out that she has poo on her chin, and return the favor. The harmony continues all the way to the airline office, where money paid, the cats ignore any attempts of Mom and Dad to show affection before their boys are whisked away to Auntie land. 7.5 hours later we reach home, shower, and cry. Words really cannot describe today, other than what an anniversary!
Some less horrific items to note:
Breakfast before our flight back was a full Scottish with a pint of beer for each of us (and I even liked the blood pudding).
We bought 5 Finger shoes (shouldn't they be 5 toe?) and hiked in them to the great enjoyment of ourselves and every observant Scot we met.
Our cats currently hate us.
We have been married for 3 years, and Jak hasn't once attempted to choke me as I so richly deserve.

That is all for now, we are off to Spain next week, and will murder without hesitation the person and families of said person, and neighbors and mild acquaintances of said person should they interrupt our vacation.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

So I just drank about a half gallon of iced tea. I have "Magic Dance" from Labrynth cranked (mmmmmm....David Bowie!). I am in a sun dress. I have pronounced bike tan lines. I am wicked tired. This is all directly related to my biking adventure of the the day! Well, maybe not the Bowie, but the rest of it is!

Alright, so today started off normally. I woke up, finished "Cold Mountain" (great book!), ate some cereal and did my grocery shopping. By the time I took the groceries out of the Landy, it was pushing 70 beautiful degrees and I promptly threw the perishables into the fridge and got my kit on. In Germany, you never know when the weather is going to turn, so I had to take advantage of it, at the expense of leaving all the dry goods on the counter to put away later. After grabbing a couple of bottles and throwing in some quick electrolyte sports powder into one of them I was out of door. Some chain lube and air and the tires, and I was ready for my adventure.

It all started out normally. I headed down the usual "get me out of Graf. as quickly as possible" route towards Pressath. I rode past all of the beautiful rapeseed fields to get onto the plateau. It is quite a climb, but certainly worth it! The views were just perfect today.

Anyway, cue the Dropkick Murphys. Why, you may ask. Oh, for no reason, it is just what iTunes decided to play while I write. Okay, back to the adventure. So I crested the climb and headed off to Erbendorf. See two massive climbs that last for miles and top out with a stretch of 300 meters of %20.

It ripped my legs off. Luckily, I was able reattach them with little difficulty and I was back on my way. I descended into Erbendorf and decided to take a road that I had never noticed before. Well, let me explain. There is certainly a reason I had never noticed it before. It isn't much of a road. It started out fine. I saw it meander its way up into the hills. I should have been worried when I didn't see it emerge anywhere on the hill that it climbed. Oddly enough, my better judgment had left for the day, so I went up anyway.

The views up this "road" were spectacular. When the road turned from pavement to gravel, I kept going, thinking, "No worries, they must be making improvements to this portion. Not so much. From a gravel road it quickly progressed to hard pack double track.By this point I was thinking I should turn around, but being miles in, I was already invested. From double track it turned into some of the more burly single tracks I have seen in some time. And please, dear reader, keep in mind that I am on my road bike, on rims that do not even have a brake track to save weight. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. That is really all I have to day to explain my feelings on that right now.

Although I knew that I would be screwed beyond screwed if I were to flat (I only have one extra tubie on me, and so one flat would make for a long walk, but in what direction, who knows!). I had taken many turns by this point, so was a bit *cough, *cough, disoriented. Eventually, after close to an hour, I saw an opening in the trees and saw a house. "I'm saved," I said to myself. I was thinking that I would simply knock on the door and ask the inhabitants where in God's green earth I was. Well I passed by some lovely, yet somewhat overgrown apple orchards. As I reached the house, I saw that it certainly had not been inhabited since the war. Oh well. So I kept riding, making up songs to make me feel better that all had the following lyrics: "Oh dear, I am lost today! Don't worry I will find my way!"

After a few more miles of praying that my old tubies would not flat, I saw pavement ahead. Luckily I was spit out onto a road. After using the scientific method of eenie, meenie to decide which way to go, I turned right and found a town whose name was familiar. Long story short, I made it back home. Barely. I was so hungry when I got home that I didn't even look at Frank as I doused hot sauce on a a tortilla and stuffed it into my mouth whole. When I finally looked down at my poor blond cat, he was generously sprinkled with a fair share of Tabasco. Poor guy. I was still so hungry, I considered licking it off of him. That would have been a bit furry, so I decided that was not a great plan, so instead I ate a still frozen ego. Any riding can relate to this need for instant calories, so it isn't as odd as it sounds. Well, maybe it is.

A bath and more food put me into a much better mood. I am off to a fest now with a couple of friends. I think I deserve the liter beer I will soon be drinking after today's adventure!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April showers bring what?

So I don't buy the old adage, "April showers bring May flowers," As of yet, April was mostly shower free, but yet May has started with some less than perfect weather. It always seems to be like that. Having spent the first half of April in the field, where I was stuck behind a computer the whole time, the weather was just perfect. Now, when Nate is in the field and is stuck mostly in the open, the weather is pretty miserable. I am not sure how that works!

Despite the very windy and rainy weather we have been subjected to, I has been quite productive with the hubby in the field. Although I miss his company, the house has been very tidy! I have found this wonderful new running route with which I was so enamored, I ran it three times this week! It is a long climb on a running path, a few miles through the woods, and then a short bit through the old part of town back to post. All told it is about 7 miles, so it isn't too shabby of a run! I have been watching "Life in the Undergrowth," by David Attenborough and have learned quite a bit about our slimy friends without backbones (aka slugs and snails). As it is often moist on this trail, I have been able to study the things I have learned about in the series in real life. I never though invertebrates would be endearing, but they certainly are interesting creatures as a whole!

On an entirely different note, I have been following all the Royal Wedding plans and things very closely these past few months. It was exciting to finally see it all come together. Luckily, I was able to stream the wedding on my work computer from the BBC website. I am sure my NCOIC got sick of me turning the monitor towards him, or have me pulling on his sleeve say "Oooooo, look at her dress...what a terrible hat!" He certainly was a good sport though by occasionally saying , "Hmmm, yes certainly lovely." and "I agree, what a terrible hat." Thank God for tolerant NCOs that put up with the quirks of their officers! The Duchess of Cambridge was just beautiful! I loved the music they chose for the ceremony, the dress, the uniforms, everything! I got so jealous of Kate's jewelry, that I have been dropping hints via blackberry for a sapphire ring like hers...you know Nate, with our anniversary coming up.....*cough, *cough. I think he got the idea. He was talking about having jewelry conversations with his female Soldiers. As they are all fashionable girls, I hope he took their advice!

Things around here have been a bit dull (but dull is good!). We had a quiet Easter spent with our friend, Cat. We had a great night ride on the mountain bikes with him, where a small weasel type creature almost took us all out! I have been getting in some great reading as well. I just recently finished Bill Bryson's Shakespeare. It was just fantastic, as is everything Bill Bryson writes. Time for my run, so I must jet!